*Trigger Warning* #mentalhealth
At age 11, I don’t remember wanting to die or being sad. I was angry at the world and I was self-destructive, but not suicidal. My mom had left my dad and I was angry at her. I didn’t understand why. I loved my dad, I never saw anything wrong. I was angry that I had to share a room with my mom, that I had to live away from my dad, that I lost all of my things. I had left my friends behind and I was going to a new school. This school was different, the kids dressed in nice clothes and expensive shoes. The transition to middle school was already a big deal!! What was my mom thinking?
The first year of middle school was okay. I was in the GT (gifted and talented) classes, so the kids were nice. I still took regular elective classes where I met other kids and made friends with the older crew. It was in 7th grade when the chaos started. I don’t remember when exactly or how I started smoking cigarettes and drinking, then pot, and eventually started taking pills. Kids in my school were even doing acid and heroin. They carried it in liquid form to put the drops in their eyes, tongue or in their nose. At that time I didn’t know what it was, but I never did any of that. I even met girls that were sniffing sprays and cocaine.
I was 12 years old and I liked taking pills. They made me forget I existed. They made me forget all the drama going on in my life. These pills were my getaway. They numbed the pain I carried with me. I made it extra complicated by getting myself in stupid situations. So many times I found myself in trouble, either under the influence of pills or alcohol. We live, we learn. I learned the hard way.
It was only the beginning though. It was my first cry for help and no one was listening.
In 8th grade, I really messed up. Some friends and I had asked someone to buy us a bottle of 100 Roche 2 pills. These were the famous ones we could buy at $1 each. In Mexico, you could buy a bottle for about $40 back then. We had this stupid idea of selling them and earning a profit. I was so stupid. It makes me realize where my kids get it from! (JK kids!! I love you!) We had to cross to Mexico to pick them up. After getting the pills we had an even smarter idea! Why don’t we stay in Mexico and rent a hotel room to party??! We divided the pills between us three to bring them back. But we had an even brighter plan!
We bought a 2-liter sprite and poured a few pills from each. One of the girls chickened out, she kept her pills and came back home. So it was just two of us getting a room and inviting our friends over. Before the party even started, the other girl disappeared. She panicked and left. My mother found me asleep in the hotel room. I had called my boyfriend to come over and he was blamed for everything. I got him in so much trouble. He was just there to pick up the broken pieces.
Next thing I remember is falling asleep on my aunt’s roof. Like seriously! How did I get there? I don’t know, and I don’t know how they got me down either! I woke up at home. I took a shower and next thing I remember I woke up in a hospital bed, wearing a gown and hooked to an IV. I remember getting up and leaving. I woke up in one of my classrooms at school. The kids were freaking out because I couldn’t stay awake. I was taken to the principal’s office. They sent us to a counseling center where I was evaluated for mental illness. They seemed to think that I had tried to commit suicide by taking so many pills. The memories are short and faded. It’s like I’m playing a movie in my head, but the scene keeps changing to a totally different setting. Like I closed my eyes and opened them to find myself in another place on another day.
I opened my eyes and I wasn’t home. It was like a hospital. There was a waiting area and I was sitting in the front desk area. I was scared. My mom was there talking to the staff. I saw these freaky looking people. One of them looked like he had escaped from a mental asylum, just like the movies. Next to me was a luggage and one of the staff members was taking out my clothes!
I realized then that it was a mental hospital! The staff member was choosing what clothes I could and couldn’t keep. My mom was crying, I knew she was leaving me there. I started crying, kicking and screaming. She left.
I don’t know how long I stayed there, but it seemed like years to me. I had been hospitalized for “trying to kill myself”. I kept telling them it wasn’t like that, but deep down I think I might have been doing exactly that. I found every way possible to kill those feelings I’d been dealing with.
The hospital did help for a while. I came out feeling great. I had been on some heavy medication and counseling therapy, I was cured.
What these people didn’t know, was that guilt, shame, and heartache can’t be cured with medication. It was just a band-aid solution. I was 13 years old, with divorced parents, raised in a dysfunctional family, with an alcoholic father, a victim of sexual abuse, drug abuse and everything that came with it. I wasn’t going to be “cured” in a couple of weeks, months, or even years. I didn’t end my life that time (obviously), but everything was still a mess. Things got pretty messy soon after returning home. Those are stories for other blog posts!
I’ve learned that trauma takes time to heal and sometimes it doesn’t, you just learn to live with the pain. You find coping mechanisms to ease this pain and make amends with the memories. You can’t just forget that things happened, but with time you grow from these experiences and you use them to build yourself up.
Mental illness affects many teenagers. Sometimes substance use is the only way they know how to cope with the pain. In many cases, mental illness is triggered by alcohol or drug use at a young age. But traumatic events like sexual abuse, domestic violence, or crime are also triggers for mental illnesses like PTSD, anxiety or depression. It’s hard for teenagers to open up about these things because many people don’t understand. It was easier for me to find drugs and ease the pain than to find the courage to talk about how I felt. Nobody was listening anyways.
Mental health is important. It is hard to function in day to day life when our minds are constantly in battle with mental illness. If our minds aren’t okay, we can’t reach our full potential to become what we are meant to be.
“One day you will look back at the most difficult times of your life and you will smile at how you got through them and how you grew through such experiences.”